by Cathy Martin
The fashions. The perfectly coiffed hairdos. The smoking! Another era indeed, but it’s clear Charlotteans who came up in the 1950s and ’60s knew how to have a good time.
Through the Instagram account, @classicmyerspark, Charlotte native Jenny Rowland shares a peek at the world of the Queen City’s social scene not only during the Mad Men era but from the 1910s through the 1980s.
As the daughter of a Methodist pastor, Rowland, 42, moved around quite a bit growing up, but she maintained a strong connection to Charlotte — in particular, the Myers Park neighborhood, where both sets of grandparents lived for decades. The family lived in Charlotte until Rowland was 5 while her father was an associate pastor at Dilworth United Methodist Church. They returned to the Queen City when Rowland was in college and grad school.
When the pandemic hit, Rowland took time off from her job as a brand-strategy consultant to homeschool her kindergarten son. During pockets of downtime, she began sorting through old family photographs and started posting them on Instagram. “I just always thought they should find their way somewhere,” says Rowland, who now lives in Winston-Salem.
From lounging poolside and sipping cocktails on the lawn to masquerades and basement parties — a late-night tradition following formal gatherings Rowland believes traces to Prohibition — the account spotlights lighter moments from a simpler time.
“I think it’s wonderful to piece back informal history like this — what things really looked like day to day. So much in the newspapers and other [historical] records is more formal,” Rowland says.
Though Rowland doesn’t consider herself a historian, she professes a passion for thrift stores and retro TV as a way of “viscerally connecting with another time.” The project, however, did prompt a recent visit to the Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room at Charlotte’s Main Library to dive into the history of one of Charlotte’s oldest neighborhoods.
More importantly, the account has created a way for Rowland to connect more deeply with family members, deciphering the mysteries of the who, what, when, where and why in the photos.
She’s made plenty of connections beyond her family as well, with followers responding and sharing their own vintage photos. About 30% of the photos she posts on the account are submitted by others.
“That’s been one of the most rewarding things — realizing how much other people enjoyed seeing it,” Rowland says. SP